Israel’s Defense Ministry unveiled a Remembrance Hall for the country’s fallen soldiers for the first time on Thursday, ahead of next week’s Memorial Day.
The site, located at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery and next to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, is currently in the final stage of construction and is meant to commemorate every one of the more than 23,000 soldiers killed since before the establishment of the state.
“To remember each one is not a simple thing,” said Aryeh Mualem, head of the Defense Ministry’s Families and Commemoration Department. “This is exactly the place to remember each one of them.”
Visitors will descend a flight of broad stone steps into a corridor where video of soldiers from different eras, starting with the pre-IDF Palmach forces, are projected onto a wall. The hall leads to an open space lined with benches, with an 18-meter-tall (59 feet) column made from over 6,000 stone bricks opening like a chimney into the sky overhead.
A spiral path, supported by concrete pillars, winds upward around the column. The names of the fallen soldiers and the dates of their deaths are inscribed on the bricks lining the wall of the 260-meter (853-foot) path. A candle will be lit on the anniversary of each death. The names are arranged by the date the soldiers were killed, regardless of rank or unit, starting with the most recently killed at the bottom of the path. Light from the outdoors shines through gaps in the bricks. Commemorative columns toward the top of the path will display photos and information on soldiers who were killed on that day of the year.
The end of the passageway, bearing the names of fighters killed in the 1930s, opens into the Mount Herzl cemetery.
Many visitors will have a personal connection with soldiers who were killed, Mualem said, and will be able to locate their specific stone in the wall on a series of computers spaced throughout the path. Visitors will also be able to take a photo of a name and get information on the soldier and their story through an app.
The memorial will allow the country to remember the soldiers as individuals, Mualem said, which is especially important today because many of their parents and relatives are getting old.
“Who will remember their son when they pass on?” Mualem said. “We need to remember every one of them.”
Construction of the memorial began in January 2015. The structure cost NIS 75 million ($20 million), with another NIS 14 million invested in multimedia. The site will first open to families of fallen soldiers on this year’s Memorial Day, May 1.